h2h Corner ~ How to Use my Fantasy Baseball head-to-head Rankings

For all of our rankings, please visit here.

The first point: while the rankings can be modified/used for Roto/Points leagues, they are specifically (and you’ll see how/why) tailored to the 5×5 standard h2h fantasy baseball game.

The second point: I separate hitters and pitchers in my fantasy baseball rankings because they are wholly different animals. If you don’t know me, I greatly devalue pitchers and unpredictability. To win week-in and week-out in an h2h league you need to maximize the categories that will impact other categories and avoid risk.

I split my rankings between hitters and pitchers because I have a distinct strategy for drafting in an h2h league. Out of my first 10 picks, I like to use at least eight nine of them on hitters (don’t worry about catchers), and then I binge on pitchers from 10-17 or so and try to grab sleepers where I think appropriate. Statistically, hitters are easier to track and project; pitchers, on the other hand, can be dominant one year, and completely worthless or injured the next (Right, Dr. Faustus?). Quite simply, you can get pitchers who end up in the top 10 late in your draft (Vazquez, Greinke, and Verlander to name three from years past); you can rarely do so with hitters.

The third point: My typical 5×5 h2h draft goes heavy on steady non-catcher hitters first. While it’s not sexy, this means you typically avoid young heartthrobs like Justin Upton, Evan Longoria, Jason Heyward, Chris Davis, etc. For every Heyward and Longoria, there are a plethora of Dallas McPhersons. In addition, I eschew one-hit wonders and injury risks. For that reason, I won’t own guys like Mark Reynolds, Jose Bautista (even though I sort of believe in him) and, most notably, Josh Hamilton. You simply cannot whiff on your first four-to-five draft picks and be competitive.

When I look at hitters for fantasy baseball, I tend to emphasize HRs and SBs and, to a lesser extent, average. That is why guys like Drew Stubbs and Bobby Abreu appear higher in my rankings – the ability to contribute in both HRs and SBs should help in RBIs and Runs – while there will never be a direct correlation, at least by emphasizing HRs/SBs I’m betting on something batters can control (whereas they require people to either knock them in or be on base to get runs/RBIs). Consequently, I love power-speed combo players.

  • Why I (generally) Avoid Catchers: Given the lack of consistent at bats and injury concerns at the position, I tend to hate drafting catchers early (so they are typically inordinately low on my board – although not the case in 2011). In years past, I’ve built around Russell Martin (2007), Soto (2008) and other similarly priced backstops. It’s not hard to get top 5-10 catchers at the end of the draft (Miguel Olivo, John Buck, etc.) or even off the wire. I don’t think I’ve ever owned Joe Mauer or Victor Martinez (aside form his under-the-radar breakout year in 2004).

The fourth point gets back to the second point: The LIMA strategy (slightly modified) is butter to a fantasy baseball h2h manager’s bread. For several years, I used a furry creature, rarely drafted in the top nine rounds, called Aaron Harang as my staff ace. Then people got on the Harang bandwagon and I jumped on the Atlanta Braves version of Javy Vazquez. He didn’t get a ton of buzz, yet I had him as a top 10 pitcher. Knowing he wouldn’t go early in drafts, I could wait on selecting a pitcher and get a staff ace after I’ve filled most of my hitting positions.

As you’ve no doubt noted, I approach pitchers a tad different from other fantasy writers when creating my ranks for h2h leagues. Most notably, I completely disregard wins. Wins are too unpredictable; some of the best fantasy pitchers this year will undoubtedly be guys with low win totals because they play on crummy teams or are flat-out unlucky. Devaluing these guys for such arbitrary reasons is ludicrous. Second, two-start pitchers have a huge advantage in a week, I’d rather have two starts from an average pitcher than one start by Roy Halladay. Third, I don’t think about trying to sweep the pitching categories each week when creating my draft board. During the season, I let my Monday/Tuesday starters do the talking. If they post good ratio performances, I hold my borderline starters back. If they have poor early week outings, I release the hounds and try to win strike-outs and wins. You can manage a pitching staff on the fly: good match-ups will always be out there and two-start pitchers are always changing. That is why you don’t grab pitchers early.

So, what do I like in a pitcher? Good ratios and strikeouts. I love Ks because, even if a pitcher has a bad outing, he’ll likely get a good amount of Ks, so there is some certainty there. When you are looking at week-to-week fluctuations, anything you can be certain of is incredibly valuable.

The fifth point: Now, let’s talk about closers. People tend to devalue closers in h2h fantasy baseball leagues, viewing them as one-category wonders that can’t be trusted to either retain their job or finish games consistently from week to week. While the latter half of that statement might be true, that doesn’t mean closers lack value. Every week you have to maximize your results in the pitching categories. If you lock up saves, all you have to do is win four of the remaining nine categories for a tie or five of nine for a nifty .600 winning percentage. Five/nine is about 55%, whereas six/ten is 60%, so you increase your odds of winning by loading up on closers (roster permitting). This works because most h2h players eschew a bulk closer strategy and usually only have at most three. If you double that amount, you’re in good shape.

It ain’t pretty, but that’s how trophy…let me finish, wives are earned. With closers, it’s important to remember that there is always safety in numbers. However many RP or P spots you have, you should have a closer for each of those spots. So long as you have at least one great closer and several fringe closers, you can pretty much guarantee your team will win at least one category and add 20 – 40 Ks.

In a nutshell, that is how I approach a head-to-head fantasy baseball league. Let me know if you have questions, disagreements or need anything else!

If you have ideas for other columns, post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).

6 responses to this post.

  1. […] How to Use my Fantasy Baseball head-to-head Rankings […]


  2. […] How to Use my Fantasy Baseball head-to-head Rankings […]


  3. Hey Albert, great work as always! Looking forward to another rollercoaster of a season.

    I play in a 7×7 league, but following your 5×5 rules still works for me.
    The additional categories are OPS, off. K’s, pitcher losses, and WHIP.

    The only point that I can’t follow, is the” fifth point” regarding closers. With 14 categories to worry about, saves just dont make enough of an impact.


  4. Posted by Albert Lang on February 22, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Yeah – with 14 categories it messes up the math – saves are only 1/14 of the stats or 1/7 of the pitching stats, so relievers have less value in your league


  5. Posted by Jarrod on March 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    I like this. I’m in a h2h and have been thinking about drafting my first pitcher in the 7th 8th or even 9th round. I’m going to give it a try in a mock draft.


  6. Good luck with the strategy – i know it works in 10/12 team leagues – it’s not hard to get the undervalued top 20 pitchers in those leagues which doesnt put you behind those with Lincecum/Halladay at all – yet your offense will be far better.

    Thanks for reading!


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